Monday, 28 April 2014

The Tudors: Season Two, Episode 8

"Those carefree days are gone."

This episode is something of a watershed: Henry has his big accident that both beckons in middle age (well, he is 45, however young and slim Jonathan Rhys Meyers may look) and, it is rumoured, permanently unsettles his mind. He also spends much of the episode perving over Jane Seymour, and has properly and officially had enough of Anne Boleyn. Oh dear. And Cromwell glides serenely above it all, consolidating his power yet flying close to the Sun.

We're fully introduced to the sweet yet intelligent Jane, her scheming brother Edward and, again, her father Sir John. Her male relatives are using her in exactly the same way that the Boleyns were using her, even if they seem a little less horrible.

We're also reminded of what a small fish Henry is in the big European pond; he passes on to Chapuys his congratulations to Charles V on his conquest of Tunis, well and truly sucking up on the hope of an alliance, and sending Cromwell to the Habsburg court to boot. Meanwhile, Francis I is on a pilgrimage to Rome, and heard from the Pope that Henry is to be excommunicated. Clement VII then tries to persuade the capricious Francis to invade England, but the promises of kings are, of course, worthless.

In other news, the monasteries are dissolved; Cromwell's son Gregory is summoned to court; and Jane has another brother- yet another character called Thomas. Henry is assiduously nice, even courtly, to Jane; his intentions are obvious but, for now, he's pretending to be chivalrous. But Anne is still around, and Natalie Dormer is particularly superb as the now-defensive Queen. She is what makes this season so good.

The King goes jousting, pretending he's still young, but it all goes horribly wrong; he is unhorsed by Sir Henry Norris, and seems to be on the edge of death for a long time, causing the whole court to manoeuvre themselves into position for his death. It's a dangerous moment; a new monarch means potential purges. Cromwell is insistent that Elizabeth be Queen; he fears Mary. He makes plans to deal with her, but the King lives.

Henry's leg is now buggered; the ulcer will plague him for the rest of his life, and in ten and a bit years' time it will kill him. He is a new, harsh Henry, cruelly goading Anne with his decision that Mary will be betrothed before Elizabeth. This harshness doesn't apply to Jane, of course; she's playing hard to get, and the King likes it.

Anne is set firmly on a track to ruin, badly falling out with Cromwell and suffering a miscarriage. Henry is furious (You've lost my boy!"), convinced that God will never give him a son through Anne. They row furiously, with some great acting from both of them.

Henry confides to Cromwell that he considers his marriage to Anne null and void; he wants another wife...

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